Classic TV Revisited: Fantasy Island

Starring Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaise Fantasy Island had charismatic modern-day sorcerer Mr Roarke running a holiday island with a difference. Guests, stumped up $50,000, to have their fantasies made reality.

Tropical island, with two men in white linen suits.

Not a Survivor-style take on island life then?
This was quality from an era when viewers weren’t supposed to get their kicks from watching others suffer and stab each other in the back.

Fantasies of the French maid variety?
Certainly not, this was a good, clean family show. Roarke’s guests always had some dark secret to be confronted during the fantasy conjured up for them. They all left attaining what Yanks call “closure”, and would board the plane home with a wistful smile.

Why was it so good?
Entertainment in its purest sense – an escape from reality. It was also gloriously bad. Some appalling acting, cloying storylines, feeble jokes. Despite giving the impression of a lavish production, the fantasies were always played out on a shoe-string budget. Somehow they were always disappointing.

Was it shot in paradise?
It looked like the tropics but was in fact the Arboretum in Arcadia, just outside LA – which was handy for the cast and crew.

Who was in it?
Ricardo Montalban played the charismatic dream-maker. His suave good looks also brought exotic sophistication to The Mexican, and Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan

What about Tattoo?
How could we forget the little man, just 3ft 11ins. He was played by Herve Villechaize, who also starred in The Man With The Golden Gun. The Frenchman delivered the best line: “Boss, de plane, de plane”. But he was later replaced by Christopher Hewett as the assistant Lawrence.

Where did it spring from?
Top TV producer Aaron Spelling can take the credit for that one. Hart To Hart is another one of the schmaltzy, but cult-status gems the Texan has left for posterity.

This man’s got a lot to answer for…
His stable of shows are remarkably bland, but the combination of beautiful people, romance and cheesy humour has been incredibly successful.

What happened to Tattoo?
Not good. Herve Villechaize committed suicide on September 4, 1993 in North Hollywood. Cause of death was self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

Any chance of a return to Fantasy Island?
US network ABC decided it was worth having another visit in 1998. English-born A Clockwork Orange star Malcolm McDowell bagged Mr Roarke.

Gave it some menace, did he?
Producers aimed for a darker, quirkier feel to the reprised series. McDowell’s Roarke wore Armani and gone was the clown role of Tattoo.

Not to be confused with:
Fantasy Island, a theme park in Skegness.

Don’t say:
“What’s that Tattoo, are you in pain or something?” And “Look here Roarke, the room service is appalling.”

Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.